APL plans new program with Imagination Library expansion

Published 9:15 am Thursday, August 17, 2023

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Governor Kay Ivey kicked off the statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library during an official launch event on Wednesday, August 9, and Covington County’s participation through its public libraries is still going strong.

Andalusia resident Hope Boehm reads a book with her 5-year-old daughter Ella Boehm. Ella is a local kindergarten student and frequent visitor of the Andalusia Public Library with her mother Hope. The two enjoy reading books together at the library each visit. (PHOTO COURTESY OF CARYL LEE RAY)

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by gifting free books each month to children birth to age 5. The Imagination Library first launched at the Andalusia Public Library in 2011 when Curtis Simpson started the program.

Since launching, over 98,000 books have been mailed to children in Covington County. Reports estimate that anywhere from 600 to 900 children receive books each year throughout the county. As with other programs, the first book the library received was “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper. Children who graduate into kindergarten from the program receive “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come” by Nancy Carlson.

“This is a wonderful incentive that promotes literacy in Covington County,” APL Children’s Librarian Caryl Lee Ray said. “When you receive a book in the mail, the child and parent sit down together and associate love and affection with each other while reading at the same time. We have handed out 15 to 20 brochures lately with library moms asking about the program. Other libraries are even reaching out to me about how we display our Imagination Library area.”

Ray added that the APL is happy about being a participant of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

“We take pride in all of our library readers and want to get our littles started on the lifelong journey of reading. The Imagination Library is a wonderful asset to introduce books in the home and then ultimately bring children to our library to continue their reading adventure. Children mimic what their parents do, so it is important for adults and children to embrace this quality time together. Lap time is better than app time. We encourage everyone to participate in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and visit your local library if we can help.”

Recent studies in child development and neuroscience show that reading books out loud to your child helps develop their reading skills long before they are able to read. Additionally, studies show that story time is not just a fun library activity but is the beginning of what can be a relationship for children and their local public library.

The APL will soon be incorporating Dolly’s Imagination Library books into a new program called Raising Readers beginning Friday, Sept. 1, at 9:30 a.m.

“This program will be for mothers with infants from birth to 1 year old. It’s a chance for the mother and the child and the library to come to the library, receive a goody bag with baby items, sing a song, do a little puppet show, and interact with others while growing a child into a reader. Our usual preschool Story Time will continue to follow at 10:30 a.m. each Friday,” Ray said.

Funding for the Raising Readers program was made possible from a $20,000 grant written by Susan Short of the Children’s Literacy Council. This grant was divided evenly between the Andalusia Public Library, Andalusia Elementary School, Opp Public Library, and Florala Public Library.

Held on National Book Lovers Day, Governor Ivey began the expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library by recognizing the significance of reading proficiency.

“No matter what a child grows up to be, reading proficiently is simply critical. No doubt, learning to read begins at home. Parents are our first teachers, after all. It is really important that our parents start reading to our children when they’re just babies. We must encourage our children to open books during their earliest developmental stages,” Ivey said.

Alabama’s program currently has 55 operation local program partners covering portions of Alabama’s 67 counties. Over 40,000 eligible children in the state are currently receiving free high-quality books through these programs. The goal is to establish local programs in all 67 counties.

Covington County is one of 38 counties statewide where Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is currently offered with Morgan County next to join.

“Whether you are a nonprofit or school system, I am calling on you to join with the state in making the Dolly Parton Imagination Library available to children birth to age 5 in every corner of Alabama,” she said.

For more information visit imaginationlibrary.com or call the Andalusia Public Library at 334-222-6612.